Jung At Heart

...Ramblings About Psychotherapy and Whatever Else Comes to Mind...

Self Disclosure

I got an email Friday on the issue of therapist self-disclosure in psychotherapy. This is an interesting issue and certainly one every therapist must wrestle with and come to his or her own terms with. I remember the therapist I saw in college as a completely blank screen -- I knew nothing about him and frankly he learned very little about me. There was something quite sterile about the whole relationship, consistent with the strong classical psychoanalytic notions about what was and was not appropriate in those days. In the heyday of the encounter movement, which was coming along when I was in graduate school, quite the opposite obtained in which many therapists quite literally let it all hang out in activities like nude encounter groups.

No one has mandated anything like a clear set of rules or guidelines to govern self-disclosure. Those concerned with risk-management would counsel disclosing as little as possible. Those placing a premium on fostering a solid relationship would support a range of kinds of disclosure, always stopping short of confessional or inappropriately personal revelations.

But still, we must all grapple with the issue ourselves. My patients know I am married, that I have also been previously married and divorced, that I have adult children, that I myself have spent time in personal therapy. They know I like to read, I enjoy movies, that I lean toward Jungian analytical psychology as my theoretical base. Even the most rigorous defender of the so-called secure frame and therapeutic neutrality makes self-disclosures in a variety of ways -- accent, choice of office location and furnishings, style of dress, and so on. We can never be an entirely neutral presence in the life of an another. All we can do is strive to be aware of the reasons for any disclosure we do make and to do our best to keep our personal issues as little entangled with those of our patients as possible. But perfection is beyond our reach in this as in all endeavors. We will make mistakes. And when we do, acknowledging them becomes part of the therapeutic process.

I'm interested in how others, therapists and patients alike, experience this issue.

Parting Words (copyright, contact information, etc.)